Restaurant review - Foodwell, Manchester

Laidback vibe at Foodwell (c) Lucas Smith

Laidback vibe at Foodwell (c) Lucas Smith - Credit: Archant

Its vegan food isn’t obligatory but it is delicious - Janet Reeder explores the plant-based options at Foodwell, Manchester

I'll have a cocktail (c) Lucas Smith

I'll have a cocktail (c) Lucas Smith - Credit: Archant

An LA-style restaurant on the banks of Manchester’s River Irwell sounds faintly ludicrous until you step into the large airy space that is Foodwell - and are swept up into the city’s latest addition to its burdgeoning luxury wellness scene.

Foodwell isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a place to meet for brunch to try Ayurvedic recipes, take a yoga class and leave clutching a bag of sustainable goodies from the deli - and not as intimidating as it sounds!

The owners of Foodwell have thankfully tapped into the contemporary appetite for food that is healthy but mixed in with a generous portion of hedonism.

I challenge you not to relax back into its West-coast laidback vibe (or should that be North West coast?). The staff are ridiculously good-looking, dressed in creamy coloured flared trousers and matching shirts, knotted above flat stomachs if you’re female. A walking ad for all that yoga.

The deli at Foodwell (c) Lucas Smith

The deli at Foodwell (c) Lucas Smith - Credit: Archant

Our host, looking a bit like Faye Dunaway circa 1978, led us through the front bar area with its lounge-style seating to a smallish table in the restaurant area. From there we drink - first a toasted coconut mojito redolent of days on the beach in Barbados and then a fizzy prosecco to transport you to the shores of Portifino.

The menu is varied and changes throughout the day serving up breakfast, brunch and lunch as well as Plannt - the restaurant’s vegan offering.

Matthew Nutter formerly of the vegan restaurant, Allotment, is now here as Foodwell’s development chef. The Allotment’s loss is Foodwell’s gain because good vegan chefs are hard to find and Matthew is a very good vegan chef indeed.

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So despite the burgers, steak, fish, halloumi fries and more on offer, we stuck to his Plannt menu and ordered lemon courgette scallops, £6 - rounded pieces of courgette cooked to resemble the seafood dish and served on a bed of creamy celeriac spaghetti, samphire and cashew puree. At first I thought this all needed a bit more seasoning but once my palate had adjusted to the different flavours I realised salt would have killed its complexity and that this was indeed a knockout.

The other starter was the cauliflower hot wings which is something of a Nutter signature dish and substitutes cauliflower for chicken, coats it in breadcrumbs and serves it with a spicy dip - and is every bit as good as the meat version.

From the large plates we chose Plannt charcuterie which was a kind of ‘greatest hits’ of other things on the menu. The highlights were the jackfruit salami which I can honestly say was disturbingly like meat, the sunblushed tomato and green olive pate and beetroot houmous. This would be the perfect sharing plate for lunch, or if you fancied a few nibbles with drinks. I meanwhile opted for another cauliflower dish, cauliflower shwarma, £12, which was an amazing concoction of flavours. The vegetable had been charred and had a crispy texture on the outside, then it was sprinkled prettily with pomegranate and toasted pine nuts and there was plenty of heat from the chilli to keep things even more interesting. Each dish looked good too. Matthew sent over a plate to try which wasn’t yet on the menu; a brie-style vegan cheese wrapped in wild garlic leaf which blows your mind because you’re wondering just how he’s done it.

We ended up sharing a vegan brownie for desert, which - well you can predict what I’m going to say - was brilliant.

An appointment later in the evening meant we had to drag ourselves away from the live music playing in the bar area and feeling those LA vibes but I’m still channelling Stevie Nicks and I like it a lot.

One New Bailey, M3 5JL. 0161 989 4040,